Two Jarai minority members from Ratanakkiri province have accused Vietnamese authorities of unlawfully detaining them in prison and beating them to confess to helping Montagnard asylum-seekers flee to Cambodia, a rights worker and villagers said Friday.
O’Yadaw district’s police chief Mao Sann confirmed that Siu Ling, 40, who disappeared on Dec 7, and his younger brother, Puoy Thom, 25, who disappeared on Dec 10, were released by Vietnamese authorities on Thursday afternoon and allowed to return to Cambodia.
Mao Sann said that he knew nothing of allegations that the two were beaten in jail, but planned to meet with them today.
“Vietnam arrested them and accused them of illegally entering Vietnam and for being involved with Montagnard refugees,” he said by telephone. “But after they found no evidence they released them to return home.”
An O’Yadaw district villager claimed Friday that a Vietnamese border police officer in civilian clothes went to Siu Ling’s house on Dec 7 and informed him that a Jarai friend from Vietnam wanted to meet him at the border.
When Siu Ling arrived at the border he was arrested and detained. His brother, Puoy Thom, went to investigate the disappearance on Dec 10 and he too was detained and taken to prison and accused of helping Montagnards.
“This arrest is wrong,” said Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc.
“Any arrest of Cambodian people by a foreign authority, should be revealed to the Cambodian government through the embassy or authorities along the border.”
The two claim that they were beaten during questioning at Gai Lai province’s Dak Keur district prison due to allegations they helped Montagnards, he said.
There are currently 83 Montagnard asylum-seekers reportedly hiding in the forests in Bokeo and O’Yadaw district, he added.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has made several requests to the Foreign Ministry to be allowed to travel to Ratanakkiri to evaluate the asylum requests of those reportedly in hiding.
“We cannot go without their approval,” UNHCR spokeswoman Deborah Backus said. “We are still waiting to go and want to get there soon,” Backus said, adding that vulnerable women and children are reportedly among those in hiding.
Hem Heng, Foreign Ministry press officer, said he knew nothing of the UN’s request.
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